In ‘apolitical’ KU, a history professor is all set to contest Assembly polls as students union remains banned

Srinagar: While there is a blanket ban on student politics in Kashmir University, teachers in the varsity are free to actively participate in politics and fight elections, and can even be MLAs without losing their job.
Professor of history, Mohammad Yusuf Ganai, has perhaps become the first teacher in the KU to formally join politics while still being in service. “Currently I am in touch with some political parties including National Conference and Third Front, if nothing gets materialised with them, I will contest (upcoming Assembly elections) as an independent candidate,” Ganai told Kashmir Reader.
He insisted that as a university professor he had every right to join politics as it is guaranteed by the Representation of People’s Act, 1951, without even resigning from the post.
“In response to the letter by University Grants Commission (UGC) to implement the Act in the universities in 1987, the councils of University of Kashmir and University of Jammu passed a joint resolution giving the university professors right to join politics,” Ganai said.
According to the resolution, any professor who wants to contest elections does not have to resign from the post, and if (s)he is elected as Member Parliament or MLA, (s)he can go on leave during the term as politician.
But Ganai’s jumping the fray has raised many an eyebrow within and outside the campus as a complete ban remains in force on Kashmir University Students Union (KUSU) on the pretext that politics can’t be allowed in the Valley’s highest seat of learning.
KUSU came into existence in 1992 as one of the first two students’ unions formed in the Valley in the initial years of militancy. But it was soon banned by the authorities.
The KUSU was revived in 2005 with an aim to provide a platform to students to make themselves heard. The KU, however, didn’t lift the ban on KUSU except for a brief period in 2007-08 when the union was recognised officially. And then the ban was re-imposed in an illegal manner that involved bulldozing KUSU’s office inside the campus and harassment of its members on the orders of then Vice-Chancellor Riyaz Punjabi.
Even as KUSU is banned, pro-India students’ parties are allowed to function in the campus. At least four such bodies affiliated with Indian National Congress, National Conference, People’s Democratic Party, and Sajad Lone’s People’s Conference flourished in the varsity during the tenure of former Vice-Chancellor Prof Talat Ahmad. Recently, the PDP announced that it would revoke the ban on KUSU if it comes into power.
Ganai, who has served as the president of Kashmir University Teacher’s Association (KUTA) before joining pro-India politics, said that he is in favour of student union in the campus, “but it should fight for demands of students and good governance.”
“The KUSU should put demands of students forward. They raise religious slogans due to which the authorities get upper hand to crush them by labelling them communal, which they are not,” said Ganai.
He said that students “should be in touch with professors of history and political science who will guide them in a better way to make a good beginning.”
But the KUSU members, on the other hand, said when raised issues like the revision of fee structure, cutting of chinars in the campus, they were labelled as anti-national.
“They have imposed a blanket ban on KUSU and they don’t want to listen to us on any issue,” a KUSU member said.
When KU’s Registrar, Prof Zafar Reshi, was contacted he said that professors can contest the elections as per the provisions of Representation of People’s Act and as per the circular of UGC which has been endorsed by the university counsel as well.
However, he refused to comment on the ban imposed on the KUSU.
“I don’t want to comment on the issue, and we do solve the problems of students through their class representatives,” Reshi told Kashmir Reader.